PRIME Minister Hun Sen has ordered city authorities to take a more aggressive stand against illegal gambling, saying that past crackdowns greatly reduced the problem but also made remaining violations harder to uncover.
Speaking at a graduation ceremony at the National Institute of Education on Tuesday, the prime minister directly addressed Phnom Penh’s eight district governors with requests that they redouble their efforts to eliminate gambling.
“All illegal gambling must be shut down,” Hun Sen said. “District governors, be careful.”
Hun Sen singled out the capital’s Daun Penh district as a particular trouble-spot for gambling, blaming the district’s governor, Sok Sambath, for failing to tackle the problem effectively.
“Sok Sambath should learn from the experiences of Klaing Huot and Kuoch Chamroeun,” he said, referring to the governors of Russey Keo and
Hun Sen acknowledged that some forms of gambling were difficult to detect, such as “a card game in a rented hotel room”, but said that the government would tolerate no exceptions.
“I beg everyone to close their gambling operations, even the cockfighting arena of Deputy Prime Minister Sok An,” he said.
Responding to Hun Sen’s comments, Sok Sambath acknowledged that his district’s numerous entertainment and tourism destinations made it harder to curb illegal gambling.
“We’ve received our warning, and will now set down a new plan to deploy more officials to investigate gambling offences,” he said. “We have been 95 percent effective in combating card games and slot machines, but there are still people betting over the phone, which is difficult for us to trace.”
Nuth Put Dara, deputy district governor of Russey Keo, said the premier’s praise would not be taken by authorities as a sign that they could breathe easily.
“We have yet to achieve 100 percent success,” he said. “But soon, even gambling over the phone will be on its way out.”
In February last year, Hun Sen ordered a ban on all forms of commercial gambling “in order to achieve social reform, strengthen public order and improve social morality”.